A Car Fanatic’s Drive Down Memory Lane: Lessons Following The 1/10th Rule

I'm a car fanatic and maybe you are one too. This post is my drive down memory lane. I go over all the cars I've owned in the past and present.

One of my most financially helpful, but polarizing articles is The 1/10th Rule For Car Buying Everyone Must Follow. I wrote this post to help mostly younger folks not blow their money on the most common financial destroyer. We all know that almost all cars are guaranteed to lose value.

As a young man, I used to view my Toyota Corolla Hatchback as an asset because I didn't know better. How could a car be a liability when I could take girls out on dates, drive to William & Mary from the DC-area to get a solid education, and take a nice midnight jaunt along the Jamestown river during final exams?

Now I view my vehicle as a liability. All I see in my garage is a large heap of metal necessary to transport my family safely. I've got to keep feeding it money in order for it to run – gas, new tires, maintenance, tax, tickets, accidents, and insurance. I'd much rather have the money sunk in my car producing passive income for financial freedom.

For those of you curious about what it's like to follow the 1/10th Rule For Car Buying for the past 15 years, let me give you an honest assessment as an ex-car fanatic who has owned a dozen cars in his lifetime. The journey just might save you a lot of money and bring you more happiness in the process.

A Car Fanatic's History Of Car Ownership

I didn't always have the car of my dreams. Here's how it started right after college. Ever since I was in middle school I've been a car fanatic.

Bottled Up Desire To Splurge: 22 – 25 Years Old (1999 – 2002)

The first thing I wanted to buy after I got my first real job was a nice car. Even after working minimum wage jobs during the summers and winters in high school, I couldn't afford to spend more than $3,000 on a vehicle.

It wasn't until I got a raise and a promotion to join a new firm in San Francisco in 2001 that I finally had enough money to go big. Go big I did by purchasing a $75,000 Mercedes G500 SUV. Just a year earlier, the car cost $150,000 because a dealer in Santa Fe, New Mexico had exclusive import rights until Mercedes bought them out. What a great deal for half off!

Mercedes G500 - car fanatic buyer's dream

I regretted my decision several months later because I was spending $720 a month to finance the vehicle. I had traded a perfectly fine 1995 Nissan Pathfinder for $10,000 to take on so much debt. I was probably only making about 2X the cost of the vehicle and felt stupid still renting a one bedroom apartment for $1,800 a month. My financial priorities were askew.

A year and a half later, I sold the G500 for a $17,000 loss because it wouldn't fit in the garage of a condo I wanted to buy. Although this was an expensive lesson, I bought the condo for $580,000, and decided to never spend more than 10% of my income on a vehicle ever again!

1/10th Rule for Car Buying
Traded in my perfectly good 1995 Pathfinder for a new 2002 G500

2002 was the birth of the 1/10th rule for car buying. But only after I started Financial Samurai in 2009 did I put the rule in writing.

Lessons learned: Don't buy new. The depreciation curve is too aggressive. Consider buying a 3-5 year old car instead. Further, fight the urge to buy a car before you're 25, especially if you have school debt. Take public transportation, rideshare, or ride with friends. After at least three years of work, you'll appreciate the value of a dollar more and hopefully shun expensive vehicles.

Car Depreciation Chart For Cars Average
Vehicle depreciation chart

Came To A Compromise. 26 – 27 Years Old (2003 – 2004)

As a car fanatic, I went from a brand new $75,000 Mercedes G500 to a seven-year-old Honda Civic sedan worth $7,500 after I bought the condo.

I loved the Honda Civic so much because it reminded me of my childhood, but I was embarrassed to drive it around as third-year Associate in investment banking. Investment bankers are supposed to wear tailor-made suits, drive fancy cars, and eat dry age steak dinners.

A 1997 Honda Civic after the MB G500

I never wanted to talk about cars with anyone since I never wanted to tell anybody what car I drove. It was a pretty macho environment on the trading floor where guys would constantly make fun of each other for whatever reason.

One close car fanatic friend drove a BMW X5 and another friend drove a Mercedes E-Class Coupe. Both made less than I did. Their splurges made me want to splurge again, but I still felt stupid from my G500 purchase, so I held strong.

As a compromise, I sold the Honda Civic a year later on Craigslist and bought a used 1997 BMW M3 for $14,000. It was black on black with aftermarket wheels and tinted windows. It was my dream car as a car fanatic at the time.

Ah, finally! I felt like I could be proud of my car again. I was driving a lot during this time period because I was going to UC Berkeley part-time for my MBA. Classes were in Berkeley one week and in the South Bay every other week. It felt good to drive a sports car to and from San Francisco.

As a 27-year-old who had just gotten promoted, I felt I deserved a car that matched my position at the firm. Having a BMW was good enough to make me feel like I had a nice car again, even though it cost less than 10% of my annual gross income.

1997 BMW M3
My 1997 BMW M3 that caused my insurance to rocket

Lessons learned: It's natural to want to own a nice car in your 20s to help boost your stature. The thing is, nobody really cares or expects you to be rich or successful at that age. It's much more impressive if you drive a beater in your 20s because it shows you have more important priorities. Your bonus or promotion will get chopped if your boss sees you driving a luxury vehicle. You can still get plenty of status points by owning a used luxury brand for less money.

Getting On A Roll. 28 – 35 Years Old (2005 – 2012)

By the time I turned 28, I was feeling pretty confident about my career progression. I had six years of work experience under my belt, got my MBA, and was one year in as a Vice President. No longer did I need a nice car to give me an ego boost. I focused more on utility.

Instead of wanting a nicer car to further boost my ego, I wanted to go the complete other way and start driving a beater again! A coincidence perhaps, but the 1997 BMW M3 also started having some transmission problems. After stretching to buy a single family house in the Marina district, I decided it was best to drive a second-hand car with four-wheel drive capabilities to get up to our place in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe.

In 2005, I found the perfect vehicle: a 2000 Land Rover Discovery II that I named Moose. I bought it from a woman who was relocating to Amsterdam for her consulting job. Because her company was paying for all moving expenses, she really didn't care about maximizing her sale price. I bought the vehicle, which had been under warranty, for $8,000 cash. Score!

Moose - A Land Rover Discover II Getting Fixed

It felt awesome to be getting paid 2X more as a VP, living in a nicer property while driving a car 42% cheaper than my previous one. Some would say I was overly frugal, but I loved Moose, and wrote about him for the first five years of Financial Samurai's life. He confidently drove us through mega storms and never quit on us.

Lesson learned: Do your best to “make it” or be on the right track by 30 with your wealth and with your career. With more money, you'll start getting hooked on the power of compound returns and passive income. Further, owning a home trumps owning a car for lifestyle and wealth creation since the average person only drives their car for one hour a day. Homeownership is one of the easiest paths to wealth.

Not Caring Anymore. 35 Years Old

Once I engineered my layoff in 2012, I no longer cared about my image. There was no office to drive to. There were no clients to pick up for an event. It was liberating! Moose, my 14-year-old SUV was finally traded in for $3,000 in 2014 because it had five warning lights flashing on the dashboard. It couldn't pass smog inspection and I didn't want to spend at least $1,000 to fix it.

I drove Rhino, my new Honda Fit, with pride for three years. Such an economical city car felt perfect for blending into my new middle-class neighborhood after I bought a fixer in 2014. I didn't want to attract attention by driving a fancy car.

It felt wonderful being invisible. Driving a regular car also felt great because I put the $235/month lease payment on the business. Yes, a lease is not the most economical way to go, but the lease gave us the convenience of returning the car to the dealer as we were thinking of traveling abroad.

Being able to park in more spots was a huge benefit w/ the Fit

Felt Great Driving An Economical Car

After three years, I returned the Honda Fit back to the dealership and plunked down a wad of cash for a 2015 Tata Motors SUV in December 2016. It had only 11,200 miles on it. It also went through a 200 point inspection at an Audi dealer because that's where the owner originally planned to sell the vehicle for much more.

Despite the much higher cost, I surprisingly didn't feel a lick of guilt or buyer's remorse. I was turning 40 years old and had spent 13 years owning cars worth less than 10% of my annual gross income.

I had invested 100% of the money saved in the stock market and real estate market during this time period. Further, I now had a baby to protect at all costs. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something were to happen to him in an accident with the Honda Fit.

I love the Tata and plan to drive it until it stops working or until we go on our international adventure. But I'm kind of sad I no longer love cars now that I can afford a nice variety. It was so fun to salivate in magazines or online about all the latest vehicles.

Moose II, a 2015 Range Rover Sport overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Moose II – A 2015 Tata Motors Sport SUV

Lessons learned: Once you achieve financial independence, you're OK with driving something very boring or something really flashy. It doesn't really matter because you really don't care what other people think anymore. With a family, your main priorities for the vehicle are safety and reliability. If you can also find a vehicle that looks good and is fun to drive, all the better.

Driving My Ideal Car At 45

Now that I'm a father of two young children, I finally bought both my favorite car and one of the safest cars on the road. In December 2016, I bought a 2015 Range Rover Sport HSE! I've been driving Moose II ever since.

So far, the Range Rover Sport has been reliable. I did change the fan during a oil change and that's it. The Range Rover is black on black with tinted windows and 22″ rims. I love it. Even though I'm older now, I'm still a car fanatic. Perhaps the next car will be a Porsche 911.

But I plan to drive my Range Rover Sport for 10 years until December 2026. 10 years is the ideal length of time to own a car. After 10 years, it's recommended to take advantage of new safety features, fuel efficiency features, and more.

Here are some of the safest cars and SUVs you can buy today. As a parent, I am 100% focused on car safety nowadays.

How to overcome buyer's remorse when purchasing a luxury vehicle - car fanatic

Don't Waste Money On A Car You Can't Afford

Even the most economical cars now have fantastic features that were once reserved for luxury vehicles. For example, my Honda Fit had power windows, power locks, Bluetooth, a backup camera, a side view camera, a couple USB chargers, and paddle shifters.

By the time you reach middle-age and beyond, you won't care as much about material things any longer. You also won't feel ashamed owning nicer things because you earned the right to splurge. Some of you might even go the complete other way and start simplifying your life for the sake of freedom.

Even if you are a car fanatic, stick to spending 1/10th your gross income on a car or less. You will be so happy to have saved and invested all that money in the meantime. The best reason to drive a cheap old car is better mental health!

Cars give you the greatest joy when they are reliable and don't stress you out financially. Not only will the 1/10th rule prevent you from ever feeling buyer's remorse, if you want a nicer vehicle, you'll be motivated to earn more money.

For my next car in 2026, I'm most likely going to get an electric car. By then, the charging grid will be more built out. Further, car batteries will go even farther.

Buy The Best Personal Finance Book

If you want to read more about building wealth, pick up a hardcopy of my new Wall Street Journal bestseller, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom. Not only does it help you decide on the type of school to attend, the book also address many more of life's biggest dilemmas.

You can buy a hard copy of BTNT on Amazon right here, which has a great sale. It is a #1 New Release and #1 Bestseller. I'm positive the book will provide you at least 100X more value than it costs! The book is based off 25+ years of experience working in finance and writing about finance.

Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom Bestseller

Vehicle Insurance Recommendation

The best place to get affordable car insurance is with Allstate. With Allstate, as a car fanatic, you're in good hands. Getting a quote is free and easy. Make sure you have the best auto insurance possible to protect yourself and your family. 

Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of accidents on the road. You need great auto insurance to protect your finances as well.

About The Author

86 thoughts on “A Car Fanatic’s Drive Down Memory Lane: Lessons Following The 1/10th Rule”

  1. Am I the only person who had to look up what Tata motors is, then try and figure out if they are really sold in the US then have to search through all the cooments to find out it’s a Land Rover?
    But my real complaint is I wanted to get a midlife crisis car. Instead I end up getting a bunch of financial wisdom.
    Ruining my crisis.

  2. I have not visited this site for awhile, was brought back by a Google result about moving to Hawaii which I have been thinking of…daily for the past 15 years.

    Anyway, for Men, most of us know that the vehicle that they drive is the most visible signal to notify others where they dwell on the Big Totem Pole of Life. It gives the millisecond general feedback as to how much a dude makes, how old he is, how active he is, etc…whether we like it or not, it’s the first road marker – without actually having to speak with them – on the path to judging someone.

    The car is therefore an important thing in the aggregate. Most people do claim to hate to be judged, but if most people know that they will be judged, well, they want to put on a good superficial face rather than a bad one, ceteris paribus. Alas, society never gives up a good thing for the price of a bad thing – the result being that most cars are generally clustered in price but then the “cool, sexy, sporty” ones are priced at a factor to those plebeian models. If a dude wants to signal to the other dudes and the sexy ladies out there that they are the Ish, then it will cost them a good monthly payment not including the big annual insurance payment.

    The problem is that the resulting race becomes one large Pyrrhic battle: For most dudes, to win the Car Game, means that they have to sacrifice financial stability today and in the future because the darn German automakers keep on adding extra letters and numbers to the top models that become significantly more expensive with each digit included. You may have been the cool kid with the Porsche Carrera in the office parking spot but then Chad basically turned yours into a Toyota by bringing in his Porsche GT3.

    As for me, as an INTJ, I understood the logic and reality of all this but intrinsically understood early in life even as a kid that flashy cars were simply not going to be important to me. There were years where I made enough to be able to buy that GT3 but it really would not been my “style”. Even today, as most of my affluent neighbors roll in their Range Rovers and Teslas, I get a kick out of rolling around town in my dented, dirt covered, manual transmission ’01 Jeep Wrangler that hisses, squeels and whines whenever I switch gears on it. The Jeep is my flashy car – the other one is a Hyundai Sonata hybrid that I bot new for $20k…love that car too.

  3. Hello,
    My Aunt sent me this article. I am 23 years old. I have a 2016 Toyota Corolla I owe 18k, which is more than half of my income. The car only KBB for 11k. Monthly payments are around 380 a month. The only benefit is it has 0% interest rate. With the negative equity how would you recommend I reach the 1/10th rule? Or should I continue to own this car and pay it off?
    Thank you.

  4. Great advice that I always give to others. Growing up in a car culture family resulted in me wasting thousands on impractical cars and cars well outside the 1/10th rule. I’ve been happily driving beaters for over a decade now and my bank account thanks me. Now, like you, I’m faced with balancing cost versus the time and safety that a newer car provides. I’m still searching for that sweet spot. Until then my 2005 Volvo XC90 provides the utility and safety. Fingers crossed the reliability holds up. Great advice and article.

  5. I’m all for saving and investing…..

    Yet, at the same time, remember…. you can’t take it with you and you only live once.

    I have a 1989 Subaru with 300k miles and rust. My wife hates it. I don’ t care. It’s too cheap to get rid of. I also own my high school car. A 1971 Mustang Fastback which I plan to make it my daily driver again after 20 years of storage. It needs some work but I do it all myself.

    And I have my Giant EBike. Best form of exercise while running errands and not breaking a sweat. I’ve got all this and more on my YouTube channel of “Ob1n”.

  6. I agree with the premise of your post though believe it’s more applicable to those living in urban centres with public transit readily available. I drive an early 2000’s Toyota and have spent the past few years considering my next car purchase. Though I grew up in an urban environment and neither of my parents owned a vehicle when I was growing up, I now live in a small to medium sized midwestern town (pop. 200,000) with atrocious public transit. I plan on spending a maximum of 25% of my gross on next purchase due to the following:

    1) I work in sales and drive 5,000 to 10,000 miles annually for work which is reimbursed and which also means I would like the next vehicle to have a few more creature comforts due to increased time spent in vehicle.

    2) I have an infant and a second on the way. Safety is worth spending up.

    3) After size considerations for growing family and safety, the next and final consideration in my purchase will be reliability. My current car has done well for 16 years. The goal is for the next one to live even longer.

    While I’m in the Midwest, I spend a good bit of time in the Bay Area. If you live in SFO or OAK your guidance is on point. However, if you live in Salinas or Tracy and commute in daily, creature comfort that may increase the budget above 10% is certainly justified if you’re spending 4+ hours per day in your vehicle.

    1. I hear you on public transportation. It is everybody’s complaint, no matter which city you are in actually. The Muni never runs on time here in SF, but there is cheap ridesharing now.

      I also agree on safety… no price can be put on safety. So for the safety of a baby/toddler, get the safest vehicle you can and own it for as long as possible.

      Hope you can write off all those miles against your income!

  7. No car payments is so easy to get used to. Purchased a new 2001 Toyota Tundra in 2000 for 28K (first new car purchase and about 1/2 of salary at the time). Paid it off in 5 years. In 2005 decided the only thing I would ever pay interest on again is the mortgage (currently 2.75%). Purchased a 2008 Honda Accord in 2008 (second new car purchase) on an 18 month zero percent interest credit card that fortunately converted to 0% for life when new credit card disclosure laws were implemented during the recession. Have been making minimum payments ever since. With zero interest there has been zero incentive to pay more than the minimum payment. The remaining balance is currently less than $500 in 2018 and I will keep paying the $35 mo they mi imum until paid off. Still drive both vehicles. I typically drive vehicles until they get so outdated they become embarrassing to drive. Starting to get there with the Tundra. Because of this, I don’t think the 1/10 rule applies to me. I mean, look how the 2000 (1/2) Tundra transaction turned out in hindsight. I feel like I could easily go 1/3 right now (70-80K) and easily justify it because I will drive the vehicle for 17 years+. No interest in purchasing another 28K cookie cutter. Hmm…

    1. Diana P McGinley

      Generally agree, we buy 2-4 year old cars with a large enough down payments so we can pay the loan off in 36-42 mos. Then we keep the cars for 10+ years. Only NEW car we ever bought was a 1999 Mazda Protege with a $14K loan (about 33% of our income at the time) at 1.99% interest. Paid it off in 3 years with less than $300 paid in interest. Kept it for FOURTEEN years – best bang for our buck ever in a car. Ironically, at the same time we were looking at replacement vehicles, my husband and son were hit in it (by a 20 yr old in his parents’ pretty new $30K ish SUV, no one was injured). Insurance company totalled the Mazda out for $1K more than I had calculated its trade-in value to be.

      Say we had only kept the car for 10 years after paying it off in 3, which is how we’ve operated for our other vehicles. How do you calculate all these factors into the 1/10 of income for a car purchase rule? And, my family of 5 fits fine into our Odyssey but can’t fit into our Civic. Bigger vehicles cost more, even in the lower end trim lines – yet another factor like safety, gas mileage, maintenance costs (reliability), etc. that might affect that 1/10 rule.

  8. A friend of mine bought a motor bike (Royal Enfield) in 2001 for about Rs.55000 (in India). Another one invested the same Rs 55,000 in shares (at Rs 17.50 per share) of Eicher Motors, the company that makes Enfield bikes.

    The first friend now has an old, rugged bike.
    And the second friend’s investment is worth Rs 5 crore (Rs.50 million) now. That is about 900x times in 17 years !

    Of course, the fun and experience of using that bike in those many years – probably was priceless (subjective though).

    Note: Both friends are imaginary.

  9. I’m 45 and still a hopeless car guy- read all the magazines, salivate over 5-6 models at any given time, etc. Based on your post, I think the mistake I made was not going all out in my 20s to get it out of my system! Bought a 30k regular 3 series instead of the M3 I lusted after when i was 27.

    Great choice on the RRS- I can’t help checking them out when one drives by- there’s something very satisfying about the design (just the right amount of boxiness mixed with sleekness). Also love the reverse-trolling references to “Tata motors”. I considered getting one, but once again, “cheaped out” and spent 38k on a leftover 2017 bmw X3. In addition to the RRS- my current “dream cars” include the BMW m2, Tesla Model S, Dodge Charger SRT, and Porsche 911 so I’m all over the map!

  10. John Mcbroom

    Nice article sam.. bought 2014 mercedez suv 50k.. 4.5% of my annual income.. i enjoy the safety, as well as the comfort and sitting higher than i would in a sedan. At 50 yo would not want to downgrade

  11. Two things –

    1. I love the audacity of the 1/10 rule. It’s just infuriating enough to make people want to run the numbers.

    2. I love that I’m seeing for the Acura MDX for this article, which leases, apparently, for $416 a month. It has a starting price of $44,600 – so on the 1/10 rule , a FS reader would need to make $446,000 annually to afford this vehicle!

    I drive a 2004 Toyota Matrix (hatchback version of the Corolla). It’s well within the 1/10 rule and I plan to keep it until I get out of debt, and maybe longer.

    1. BartBandy1917

      I’m a huge fan of the Matrix and it’s twin, the Pontiac Vibe. The Vibe depreciates even faster, making it even more affordable – Toyota quality with Pontiac depreciation!

  12. After driving a 2002 mini-cooper into ground, I decided that a nice and within my means now to purchase a 2015 Mercedes SLK250 for the fun of a exotic 2 seater that fits an old guy like myself. The cost was the same as a ford new so why not. It 30000 on the speedo and was certified by mb. Not a mark or mar.
    Sometimes you need something fun.

  13. I really enjoyed this post, and thought that I would share my recent car buying experience. For reference, I am a college student who makes less than $5000/summer.

    2 years ago, I bought a 1998 Saturn SL2 with 130k miles for $1000. I only had to do very minor repairs and regular maintenance in that time, plus it got 30+ mpg! Now that car has 150k miles on it and I just sold it for $900! When you factor in the resale value, I definitely followed the 1/10th rule with that car.

    I replaced the Saturn with a 2005 Subaru Legacy Wagon with 177k miles for $1850. I originally planned to spend $1500 or less and get a newer Saturn, but when I finally found this car, I convinced myself that the extra expense up front and over time would be worth it if I could keep it for the next 3 years or more. The problem is that I found out the car will need about $1000 in repairs in the next year, with some more imminent than that.

    For me, buying and selling used cars became my primary focus over the past 2-3 weeks. As a result, I may have lost sight of the 1/10th rule in hopes that I wouldn’t have to go through this process again in a year or so. I also found that I got extremely lucky with the overall cost of my first car, and was consistently disappointed when every Saturn I looked at had more mechanical problems, had more rust (too much rust underneath is why I got rid of my Saturn), or was out of my price range. My fear was that I would buy another cheap Saturn, drive it for a year or so, find rust holes in the frame, and be forced to sell it.

    What you think about the opportunity cost of time spent shopping for cars in comparison to how long you can reasonably drive them?

    1. Todd Whitley

      The 2005 Subaru Legacy is an AWESOME car. If it’s a turbo though, do some research. I lost my 2005 turbo Outback to a blown turbo.

  14. Your history of car ownership is so brilliantly documented and the lessons learned are great. To this date I still drive my 16 years old (the one and only car I’ve ever bought) even though my income has 7x’ed in the last ten years. In fact my colleagues including all my direct reports drive much fancier cars than I do, but I am proud to be the most invisible when it comes to materialistic possessions. Really enjoyed all the insights you shared, keep up the great work!

  15. No Free Lunch

    I live in the Houston, and saw thousands of cars totaled from the flood. Many of those people had luxury cars they couldn’t afford. Many were pleased to quickly get a check for a brand new replacement car from the insurance company. Now, however they have higher insurance premiums to deal which, that many can’t afford, on the car they couldn’t afford. (I see an insurance claim as a deferred payment plan for the amount of the claim.) My car was purchased used and has so many miles, with such low replacement value that it is not worth insuring (still have the required liability). My premiums didn’t go up after the flood, because I am not part of the wacky “pool” of luxury car owners in a part of the country that floods frequently.

  16. siliconvalleyscrooge

    My car registration cost 18% more this year in the SF Bay Area than last year.

    Same car, just one year older.

    The state taxes opportunistically.

    Lots of drivers in CA, lots of people that can’t _not_ register their car — all so easy to raise their taxes via registration fees. Sitting ducks.

    Check your cost of car registration in CA for your 2019 tags vs your 2018 tags.

  17. That was a great Auto-biography you did Sam. Very impressed that early on with the exception of the Mercedes G-wagon you realized where value lies in autos.

    I have had my share of cars throughout the years as well, growing up in a Mercedes family I had the baby benz versions for several years.

    Now where I am at financially I had no problem buying a new Tesla Model S in 2015 when I upgraded the previous new car I bought and drove for 11 years (Mercedes C320, 04).

    Early on peer pressure really does play a role with what you want to drive. Lawyers, doctors, investment bankers all are expected to drive something fancy or they appear to be not successful.

  18. Erik Graper

    Mere mortal here that makes less than 100k/yr. (But, I did dip out of MBA school to chase life instead of money for 12 years working as a tandem hangliding instructor, so behind in the investing, but ahead in experience;-)) Driving ’03 VW tdi w/ 240k 42mpg, worth about 1/10 yearly takehome, but bought at about 1/4 8 years ago.
    I agree completely about the principle of 1/10 in the past, but today, I’m planning to drop 1/2 or so to buy a tesla b/c, as you say, we should all care about our next generation that is so very important. Waiting several years to get out of a diesel or gasser and into an electric may not be the wisest course for our future, seeing how much transportation contributes to global emissions. Probably not too many with the utilitarianism mindset on here, but something to consider anyway. Just wish the electric revolution started a decade back. Also, some recalcs should be in order considering fuel and maint. costs.
    Love your articles!! Thanks.

  19. Wow, where did you find a 5 yr old Land Rover Discovery for only 8k? That kind of deal is unheard of in the Bay Area, where used cars are overpriced. Did you know the seller?

    1. She was asking $11,000 to begin with, Which was still pretty good. But it did have about 68,000 miles already. We agreed on $8500, but the week we were about to do the deal the hood wouldn’t open. And it caused me some pause. She got it fixed and I told her I would give her $8000 cash. And she agreed because she was flying to Amsterdam that weekend. I’m sure her company covered a lot of costs.

  20. I remember being horrified to find out that the median new car price was basically equivalent to the median after-tax family income. It’s crazy that families are spending an entire year’s income on a depreciating vehicle…
    Your 1/10 rule was what brought me to your site originally–it made a lot of sense to me, and I took it to heart.
    When the time came, I bought a 3 year old BMW that had a steep discount because a miniscule ding kept it from being “certified pre-owned.” I got a fun ride while staying well under 1/10, and people still think the car is brand new!

  21. In my 20’s and early 30’s I followed the best car finance rule of all: have a job where your company gives you a free car, including has and insurance! I was a pharma sales rep at that time. Best deal ever.

  22. So this is interesting. I think we’re about the same age (I’m 44) and I think I have a similar overall view on car ownership – don’t blow your brains out on a car. My approach though has been wholly different. I save enough over a year or two to buy a 2-3 year old car cash so I don’t have a car payment. I then keep it a very long time. I’ve now owned 3(!) cars in my lifetime and plan on keeping my current car another 3 years or so. I keep my cars an average of about 9 years (which is quite a feat in Canada with the salt and cold). I’m now driving a 2010 Audi A5 and still love it!

  23. I have been following the 1/10 rule for car buying for years and it has helped put me in a great place in my early 30s financially. I am a car guy through and through. I am obsessed with motorsports and own a high end detailing business on the side. I have been able to stick to the rule by driving teenage vehicles, one sports sedan and an old pickup truck. It is 100% not about status for me or my image. I want a car that I LOVE to walk out of the office after a long day to see and drive home. I spend time at the track and auto-crossing the vehicle as one of my number 1 all time passions. So far I have been able to do both but I feel that time has come to an end. The teenage cars take hours and hours of time to keep running properly and those hours are all but gone for me with a growing side hustle and a child on the way. I had always planned a fleet refresh in 3-5 years but have currently shifted gears to violate the 1/10 rule and move that forward.

    I know this will slow the momentum of my wealth generation but am coming to terms with this. I am ready to stop denying myself the experience of one of the greatest passions of my life and am comfortable with my wealth distribution. I live in a very low cost of living area in the midwest and have a relatively high salary combined with my growing side business. This will take me to a 10% rule for net worth for car buying and will be back under a 5% net worth rule within the same 3-5 year time-frame I was originally on.

    I wonder what your thoughts are for someone like me and yourself in your 20s. For true car enthusiasts, does it make sense to deny yourself all the way to 35 or 40? Maybe there is a compromise if you live in an area where you could adjust your living expense to car ratio to compensate for funding a hobby.

    All the best,

    1. If you track and autox then you know that seat time is more important than the car. You can definitely find some older vehicles with great part support to enjoy your hobby (ex. Miata, C5 Corvette, E36, etc.). Motorsports are easily, and best, enjoyed with a second car.

      At that point, it’s not really a “car.” It’s an expensive hobby and doesn’t really fit the 1/10th rule IMO. Track time will eat a lot of money in consumables (tires, brakes, maintenance, etc.) than in purchase price.

      Your daily driver is a different story.

  24. I actually haven’t owned a car in many years. I lease all my cars on my business. Went from the cool and fast cars to the ones I get the best deals on. In Germany that is mostly french cars ;-).

    For business customers you sometimes even get special editions with lower cost and full-service for free. It is so liberating to not care about any damage or issue – the only downside is choosing cars become less emotional and there is less excitement when you pick up a new one.

    What I found is that these days even the cheaper cars are loaded with features and have a high driving comfort. The daily driving experience between a well-equipped Citroën and an average BMW is way smaller then it used to be.

  25. Ah yes… Age 22, blowing a third of my income on a shiny Mercedes. that was a dumb thing to do. Indeed my boss didn’t appreciate it either.

    Now – I have a Toyota Yaris worth 1/100th of my income. If it gets a scratch, I don’t care.

    BTW Sam, in case you haven’t looked at the badge, that’s a Range Rover. :-)

  26. Can definitely identify with you whenever you share your thoughts on cars. My first year out of school making decent money I sold my 98 4Runner to buy my dream car (a 2002 BMW M5 that was probably 60% of my annual income). Absolutely loved it for a couple years but realized how much time and money I was wasting as I was completely obsessed with keeping it perfect. Also realized that it didnt improve my life quite the way I thought it would and that it was painting an image of me that was conflict with my intentions. Sold it and got back into a late 90s 4Runner and havent splurged since. My sweet spot has been 5 year old Lexus products. To me they offer best blend of value, reliability, and comfort.

    1. Ah, the late 1990s 4 Runner was the best looking SUV! And then Toyota decided to screw the design forever after. So sad. I remember all the rich kids drove a 4Runner at my public HS, or the Ford Explorer. So sweet versus my bicycle.

      5 year old Lexuses sound good.

      1. Great article. I fell into the big boy job big boy car trap. After 3 new cars in 10 years, the last 5 years I’ve bought used cars, fixed them up while daily driving them, then selling them when I find my next one. Goal was to eliminate depreciation from my expenses, it worked! Now I have a 1997 4runner I plan to keep for a looooong time!

        Car list:

        1992 Ford Econoline bought $800 Sold $2,000
        1981 VW Rabbit Pickup bought $2,000 Sold $3,200
        1977 Ford F250 bought $2,100 Sold $3,600
        1996 Ford Bronco bought $3,200 Sold $5,500
        2006 Saab 9-2x bought $5,000 sold $5,000
        1997 Toyota 4runner $4,300

  27. Hi Sam,

    Great post. I wanted to know if the 1/10th rule applies to all regions or just the expensive coastal areas. For example, I live in michigan and make $85k per year, which is equivalent to making $170k in San Francisco.


    Would you still recommend to follow the 1/10th rule based on my local salary or my salary adjusted to coastal city?

    1. It probably applies EVEN MORE to a lower cost region b/c the price of a car isn’t cheaper in cheaper regions e.g. A BMW 3-series sells for pretty much the same price everywhere. So now a car takes up a higher percentage of your net worth most likely.

      It’s like spending $50,000 to remodel a kitchen in a $300,000 house in Texas. Not worth it! But $50K in a $1.5M house is much better value. Post coming on this topic too.

      1. Thanks Sam. Looking forward to your post.
        Also, I would love to see you dissect finances of a “middle class” family living in midwest. The $300k article was great, would like to a similar post aimed at folks like me in the midwest.

          1. I sure can send my expenses, however I am single and a renter. So I don’t know if it would be helpful.

          2. HI Sam,

            Long time reader. Like your insights. I agree with ag070 that ocassional posts aimed at lower net worth readers could be helpful. Here is a scenario for consideration:

            Coastal living, HCOL area(high taxes, but country living, not in city).
            household income 100-150K
            typical house costs 200-500k
            expenses – 50k a year for family of 4

            Would be nice to see analyses based on this range of middle class, dual income families, making average northeast US salaries.

  28. I just paid $4600 last month to buy a 2008 VW Touareg with 85k miles on it. So well within the 1/10th rule, more like the 1/100th. Good thing too as I just smashed the rear fender on the wall of a very tight parking garage. It was a bummer but with minor damage on a car of this age obviously I’m going to put off fixing it. Kind of like the 85 year old that takes up smoking because something else will get him first before the smoking will.


  29. I have not followed the 1/10th rule, but I’ve been very happy with the cars that I’ve bought over the last 20 years from both a driving perspective as well as financial. A month ago I bought a brand new Kia Sorento for $27, 000. It is definitely more than the one tenth rule (I put 50% down and financed the rest at 2.3%). It has three rows of seats for my growing family (wife pregnant with #3) and Android Play which absolutely rocks for listening to a lot more podcasts. I considered a used Mazda 5 for less than half that price, but no Android Play, smaller, and I think I’d have regretted it 3 years later. I got rid of a Mazda 3 that I had owned for 12 years. I bought that for $17,000 at the time though there was an offset from my previous car that had been in an accident with an insurance payment. I don’t remember the interest rate but I paid it off within a year after starting a job after finishing my PhD. I had bought that Mazda 3 7 years before for 13,000 with 3 year loan.

  30. Isn’t someone going to call out Sam for the “Tata Motors” comment? Sure, Land Rover is a subsidiary of Tata…..but it is still a Land Rover.

    Btw- I’m at about 1/30 for my car but have only been that way for 3 yrs.

    1. Hah (Tata Motors) – was going to call him out if nobody else did – but guess it’s an inside joke thing so kinda funny.

      Cars are a bit of a weak spot for me – I love buying new cars. Thought I was reformed – got rid of my BMW 335 and bought a used 2005 Volvo XC90 for dirt cheap – not having to worry about the kids ruining the interior or where to park is liberating. Has over 100K miles on it but drives great (smooth V8 engine).

      But temptation was too much – picked up a 2018 M2 as my daily driver (with the Volvo still taking on kid hauling and winter driving duties) – I NEED my manual transmission fix. Still under the 1/10 rule and love driving that thing but certainly have regrets – constant desire to keep it clean and worried about where to park. Not to mention I can’t really take full advantage of it on the streets without risking prison (VA is possibly the worst state to be a car enthusiast). But likely the last manual transmission car I’ll ever buy – so a “sentimental investment” for the long haul (or a gateway car to a 911 – we’ll see).

      Now I just need to avoid trading the Volvo in for a Land Rover…

  31. I think some of it is a maturity thing that comes with Sam. When I had lower financial means, I always wanted an expensive car. Least I thought I did.

    Now that I can afford to drive something more expensive, I don’t really have a desire to. It’s funny how that works. :-) Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much a “car guy” and still frequent shows and meets where I can see other people’s really nice cars.

    I just don’t feel the need to own one anymore. Great post.

    1. It’s totally rational. After busting your butt for years, you start appreciating the value of the dollar more and don’t want to spend as much after-tax dollars on a vehicle that won’t give you long lasting elevated pleasure.

  32. As a U.K. citizen I find it interesting that a lot of the cars you’ve owned have been European/UK/Japanese models. What’s wrong with USA vehicles? Maybe that’s why 3 of my nephews are studying automotive engineering at university here in the UK!

    1. Ah, it’s one of those things where you want what’s not your own. I wouldn’t mind driving an old 5.0 Mustang GT by Ford. I also like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Came very close to buying that one. Good value, looks great. Afraid of reliability issues.

  33. I made the mistake of leasing a car that was $1,100 a month for the past three years! The lease is finally up this month and I’m switching to a lease than is less than half the cost of my current lease. My current leased car was too flashy for me. It was picked by my son’s father as he wanted our son to sit in a big comfy car. Though he paid for the lease the past three years, I still wish I was able to save that money!!

    1. Big Bucks spending $39,600 on a car lease over three years! What type of car was it? A Mercedes S550 or BMW 750 perhaps?

      I leased my Honda Fit for $235/month on the business, and felt kinda bad when I added up all the payments over 3 years ($8,460)… but then when I looked to see how much I could buy one 3 years old.. it came out about the same. With a car that low in cost, it wasn’t worth me trying to buy/sell private party to save $1,000 – $1,500 over 3 years.

      1. Heya I’m noticing that in a couple of your replies you make reference to leasing a car through your business. Have you perhaps written a blog post on how you structure this? I’m also curious why you do this instead of saving the equivalent each month and then buying your cars in cash. Great blog btw.

  34. Damn Millennial

    First comment, that is a good looking car, but a great looking beach. We hung out there on our trip to SF.

    Nothing wrong with having a nice ride as long as it doesn’t hold you back. Some people LOVE cars its actually amazing. I think it is amazing marketing and a lifelong pursuit of wealth that makes people spend STUPID amounts on vehicles.

    The killer I see is young people renting luxury apartments and driving new or leased 40K+ vehicles…dumb.

    My baby should hold her value until I sell or the engine gives out on me. I love the fact that we invest multiples each month of what my car is worth.

    No payment…high investment rate FOR THE WIN!

    1. Indeed. Car enthusiasm is mostly a young person’s disease <40. By the time one reaches middle age, the car enthusiasm either fades, or the earnings power is high enough to afford such toys.

      Folks 40+ are starting to tire of the work grind... so they become more rational in their car spending and know they need to invest if they ever want to GTFO!

  35. I’m an automotive engineer sitting at 1/66th, a hand-me-down car my wife’s parents gave her in college.

    BURL, baby! If I need a fancy car fix, I just talk to any 20s gearhead out in the parking lot who blew over a year’s salary on something exotic. I don’t look down on their choices, though, because if anyone is going to get value and happiness per dollar spent on cars, it is these guys.

    1. Dang! very impressive about 1/66th.

      A good solution to getting a fancy car out of one’s system is to simply rent one for a weekend once a year. So easy to rent a Ferrari 458 nowadays.

  36. Todd Whitley

    I could not agree more, and I love the 1/10 rule. I’m now 52 years old. I expect to earn about $400-$425K this year. I just bought a brand-new-car-to-me. It’s a 2009 Volvo XC70. Paid $7400 cash. The previous owner bought it new for probably $40k, and now he’s dropping another $40K on a 2019 model (kinda felt sorry for him, actually). So, 9 or 10 years later, and 112K miles, I picked up a very nice vehicle for 20% of the original sticker price. Except a well-maintained Volvo will easily last 250K miles, so I’ve got another 8-10 years, and probably some repairs, but I’ll take the $30K I didn’t spend and grow that into $75K over the same term. Opportunity cost is real. And the best part is we taught our teenage kids an immensely valuable lesson. Nobody that cares about you cares what you drive.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I have a comment on this: you said “I’ll take the $30K I didn’t spend and grow that into $75K over the same term” – where would you invest the remaining $30k? And if you know you are getting a $75k grow (plus the $30k saved makes a total of $105k), why wouldn’t you consider taking $30k out of these and enjoy buying a new Volvo in the future? At the end of the day, life is also about enjoying the moment. Thanks.

      1. Todd Whitley

        Hi Alex – what I meant to illustrate was that if I bought a $40K car today instead of a $7400 car, I’d spend about $34K more after taxes, etc. That $34K can now be either spent on other priorities, or invested, or both. Now I can afford to take a trip to Costa Rica, and/or invest a good portion of what I didn’t spend on a car. 8 to 10 years from now, I could very be driving the XC70, and the $30K or so will likely have more than doubled even with moderate investment returns. Enjoying life in the moment is important, but I am definitely enjoying my new “luxury” ride. I’d rather live life in the moment on a beach somewhere, or hiking to a waterfall. Driving a car? Meh.

    2. Cool. Such good value.

      It’s weird why folks think high mileage is a turnoff now when cars are much more reliable today than 30 years ago. It feels like we’re stuck thinking about miles from 30 years ago. It’s not like a car with 100K miles drives worse than a car with 10K miles. There is no noticeable acceleration lag etc.

      The Volvo XC60 looks nice… ah, family car for family man now.

  37. going from a 1/25th rule after 5 years of zero gas to a loaded dual motor self driving model 3… which it will be my first car that will earn its keep by taking my neighbors to the airport and back while I sleep sometime by 2021. It might even be the first one of my fleet. I’ll use it for 3 years while the regulations get set.

    1. Ah, it woulda been nice to buy Tesla before their 2Q2018 results. Would be up about 18% so far.

      I’m always thinking this way. Hooked on investing… hmmm. At some point, investing won’t matter either.

      1. Ms. Conviviality

        Turo (the Airbnb version for cars) might be a good way for some to own their dream car or allow someone to drive an exotic car for a little while. My sister and her boyfriend rented a Tesla, at $160/day, during a recent vacation in Portland. The owner had one Tesla for personal use and another that was strictly for renting out. I imagine the owner must be making good money via Turo to have made such a large investment in a car.

  38. Depends on what one values really.

    To me financial freedom would be worthless without freedom of mobility. Financial freedom is not an end in itself, not just a numbers game in balancing the equation.

    I used more of an 8x rule, but have always used it. There were no reckless years.

    Since I FIRED I have implemented a $5000 annual vehicle expense (does not include gas) on an approximate 90k annual expense budget. So I basically buy a 25k vehicle every 5 years. I value my mobility so I have 4 vehicles (of various ages, of course).

    It is not only how much you spend, but obviously, also, how often.

  39. I think it depends. If your buying a more expensive car for other people’s perceptions, your doing the wrong thing. If you love driving cars then perhaps you spend more money on a great sports car, though perhaps not the latest and greatest. But how much you spend should be commensurate with the value of cars as a percent of your life. I’m a car but so I own a corvette as a third car. I’ve had it for 11 years and counting. It’s my hobby not my transportation .

  40. Not very different than you, but I was in my late 30’s and being married and with an established career, I was driving a beater until it’s last breath. I no longer had to impress the ladies and sales people would take me out to lunch rather than me having to drive others around. While I did look at sportier cars, ultimately I bought a 2016 GTI new, the out the door price is closer to the 1/15 rule. But it was all cash, so no interest payments, and got them to throw in the 1st major maintenance for free. Plus, the car drove great, the tech is better than most, the mpg was great for my commute. Practicality still won out in the end, but now I still get to enjoy the road.

  41. Simple Money Man

    I’ve made car mistakes in the past. Now I drive a 04 Civic I bought off my parents and will drive it to the ground! A nice car is VERY short-lived pleasure. Plus you’re sitting inside the car and focused (or should be) on driving, not the details inside and outside of the car.

    Question: so did the 1-year-old Moose II pass your 1/10th rule for buying a car?

    1. Yes, I continue to follow the 1/10th rule with Moose II. I will follow it for life.

      It feels great owning a reliable, second hand vehicle that doesn’t cost too much.

      I love buying a 2-5 year old car that will be the same style for the next 5-10 years e.g. Land Rover probably won’t change the RR Sport body for at least another 6-7 years. So it feels like “a deal” buying for so much less than new. Nobody can tell it’s not a 2018-2019.

      I really don’t care about cars anymore sadly. It’s fun to car.. but not so much anymore. Now maybe if I bought a sweet house w/ two car parking…..

  42. I am about at the 1/35th rule with my new to me 2008 Infiniti sports car. While I don’t place any importance on status I do want a car that will accelerate like a jet so that I can safely pass on my many highway miles (we don’t have interstates much in my state) and I do love a car that corners like it has glue on the tires. But I got all that and good looks too for only $7,000 cash. You can still get features you want on inexpensive cars if you are willing to put up with some mileage on the odometer. I actually could splurge on expensive cars now and not hurt my financial position but the idea doesn’t appeal to me, finding bargains is more fun!

  43. I know a guy who built up a lot of stock in the company he worked for. One day he cashed that stock in ($100k worth) to buy a sports car. That sports car is now worth about $25k and the stock he sold has doubled to be worth $200k and is paying about $8k a year in dividends. He has learnt his lesson but it’s always better to learn off other people’s mistakes rather than do these crazy things yourself.

    1. Oops!

      One thing I do wonder though is if I had kept the G500 at 24 until now, whether I’d be better off. 16 years X 4,000 miles/year = 64,000 miles. The G500 today sells for $120,000, so it has appreciated by 60% in value! Of course I couldn’t sell it for new, but I could have probably sold it for $25,000 today, maybe. Hmmm.

    2. The stock I sold 14 years ago to buy my Benz would be worth around 8 million dollars today! True story.

        1. Thank you Joe! I needed to hear this! I told myself I’d splurge for a sportscar when I got to this milestone in my financial journey, but now that I’m here, I’m second guessing if I should buy. These comments remind me that I SHOULD NOT!

  44. You’re maybe leaving out how you still want a sports car. Remember, not everyone wants to drive a fancy car for the cache. Bombing a canyon road in a 911 can be an experience well worth the money, if you’ve got it.

    1. It’s funny, but as I get older, I actually no longer want to go 100mph on the highway like maybe I did w/ my M3 years ago.

      Perhaps it’s because I’ve experienced going 120mph on a motorbike once and nearly crashed on a turn. Once you go top gun on a motorbike, a car’s speed and acceleration feels second tier in comparison.

      I don’t want tickets, nor do I want to die earlier with a young son. My goal is to live as long as possible now, and at least he becomes his own man!

      1. Just a thought, but you don’t need an expensive car to “bomb out” or do it safely. Most all tracks have days you can go and run your car with a group… and safety is always a top priority. People show up with project cars that couldn’t be more than a few thousand dollars. Some people show up with $500k cars. Nobody cares one bit and everyone has a great time.

        I’d agree with Sam, especially since I had literally the same experience, except I was doing 140 on the bike. I sold it within a week. Ended up buying an M3 that I keep in the garage just for the occasional track days. And it is FUN FUN FUN opening that thing up on the track, without worry of tickets and in a very safe environment.

        I know they do track days at Sonoma.

  45. I’m closer to a 1/50 rule right now. My aging Altima gets me where I need to go. It always has. The savings goes towards maxing out the 401(k), Roth IRAs and adding some to the brokerage account. Not having a car payment also lets us spend more in areas that are more important to us like travel and educational activities for our children.

  46. I wanted to followed the 1/10th rule, but I decided save and buy above my price range instead (It made me most happy). My last car was driven for 19 years and 10 of those years, I saved for the next car. (All those years, I thought about the 1/10th rule and used it to push me to save more money.) Once the old car got unsafe to drive, I pulled that cash and bought a new car. The purchase price 4.5 times my gross take home. I purchased a used Camry with nominal miles and I owe nothing. I plan on driving it for approx. 20 years, while saving for the next car.

    1. Not bad Ellie. Driving a car for 20 years warrants a stamp of approval for violating my rule! :)

      The goal of my rule is to make people have a really hard think about their car splurges.

  47. By the time you reach middle-age and beyond, you won’t care as much about material things any longer.

    Tell that to my best friend Marc. He’s always been a car guy and I think it’s only getting worse. Had he not wasted so much money in the past 28 years on cars he’d be financially independent like I am.

    Bring on the autonomous cars, and let’s save not only lots of money, but the lives of the 40,000 people who die in car crashes in America every year. A better future is ours if we seize it.

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